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Image: Unhappy Yaśodhara does his duty

Title: Unhappy Yaśodhara does his duty

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Beta 1471
Author:
Raïdhū
Date of creation:
perhaps 15th century
Folio number:
29 verso
Total number of folios:
36
Place of creation:
probably Madhya Pradesh
Language:
Apabhraṃśa Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Size:
27 x 12 cms
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

Sitting on an ornate lion-footed throne under a costly parasol and fanned by a woman behind, a richly dressed man faces a line of people. The next four figures kneel or dance, their hands raised. The woman on the far right blows a long trumpet.

After he has discovered the unfaithfulness of his wife, King Yaśodhara reflects at length on the perversity of women, the transitory character of human life and the vanity of desires. These lead to rebirth in hell and hinder a good destiny. This long monologue occupies folios 27 recto to 29 recto, which are not illustrated.

Next morning, however, he has to sit in the main hall of the palace to attend to his duties as usual. Yaśodhara must welcome those who have come to greet him and take part in the joyful atmosphere. This is the subject of the painting and of the text above.

The woman in front of the king is a doorkeeper. She is kneeling respectfully, with hands folded, and introduces the chieftains, bards and so on who are visiting the king. Behind her is a person holding a manuscript, which represents a detail explicitly mentioned in the last line of the text. This states that: 'reading of a text was started by an expert teacher' – guruṇiheṇa āḍhattu sattha-vāyaṇu buheṇa.

The exuberant atmosphere at court is conveyed through a musician playing the mṛdanga – the long white drum resting across his knees – a female dancer, who is dancing to the tune, and a trumpeter.

Although Yaśodhara does what is expected of him, he is preoccupied and sad. He cannot find pleasure in the things supposed to bring happiness.

The long protruding eye is a typical feature of western Indian painting. Its origin is unclear.

Other visual elements

This is a good example of an average manuscript. A red background is used for the painting but there is no use of gold, intricate design elements or elaborate script.

The bottom of the right margin contains the number 29, which is the folio number.

To the right of the image is the number 7, which is the number of the painting within the chapter. But it should be numbered 8.

Script

The script used for the main text is the Jaina Devanāgarī script. It is used for writing numerous Indian languages, here Apabhraṃśa Prakrit.

Background

The 15th-century Digambara poet Raidhū composed a version of one of the most important Jain tales – the Story of Yaśodhara. Called the Jasahara-cariu, which means 'the story of Yaśodhara' in Apabhraṃśa Prakrit, Raidhū’s version has the subtitle of 'having the characteristic of compassion' – daya-lakkhaṇa. This underlines the main teaching of the story, which is a manifesto against violence of all types and a defence of non-violence.

A story with several episodes, the tale of Yaśodhara is a good representative of religious teaching in narrative form – dharma-kathā. Its importance comes from the fact that it shows very clearly the working of karma and rebirth and refers to key concepts, such as:

  • violence – hiṃsā – both factual and intentional
  • desire or greediness.

Ultimately, all the protagonists become pious Jains and will be emancipated.

The text is divided into four sections called sandhi, which go into detail about all the rebirths that are recounted in the story within a story:

Sections of the Jasahara-cariu

Section

Events

1

  • King Māridatta and the search for proper sacrificial victims
  • Birth of Yaśodhara

2

  • Yaśodhara's youth and death
  • His son Yaśomati ascends to the throne

3

  • Parallel rebirths of Yaśodhara and Candramati

4

  • Last rebirth as Abhayaruci and Abhayamati
  • Final conversions

This version of the story has not yet been published. It is known from very few manuscripts, which are all illustrated and in India. However, not a single manuscript is complete. So this one, held in the Wellcome Trust in London, is a precious document, even though it is only the first half of the story. It is probable that the second half of the document is a manuscript originally kept in Delhi, dated 1454 CE. It is also very likely that a single folio in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is part of the same manuscript (see Balbir, forthcoming).

Like other versions of the tale of Yaśodhara, Raidhū's narrative poem is a major inspiration for illustrations in Digambara manuscripts.

Glossary

Common Era
The period of time starting with the year when Jesus Christ was traditionally believed to have been born. Using CE is a more secular way of dating events in a multinational, multi-religious world.
Digambara
'Sky-clad' in Sanskrit, used for one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which monks are naked. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Hiṃsā
Violence, the fact of harming in any way.
Jain
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Kathā
Story, narrative literature.
Saṃsāra
Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:
  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.
Apabhraṃśa
Apabhraṃśa is an umbrella term for the dialects that were the forerunners of modern Indian languages. Taken from the Sanskrit term apabhraṃśa, which literally means 'corrupt' or 'non-grammatical language', Apabhraṃśa was used to write a large number of Jain texts. Though Apabhraṃśa developed over the 6th to 13th centuries, literary works date back to the 8th century.
Jaina Devanāgarī
The distinctive version of the Devanāgarī script found in Jain manuscripts.
Folio
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
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